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Actress Numtarn’s illness still a mystery to Siriraj doctors

Jun 13. 2019
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By PUNGCHUMPOO PRASERT
THE NATION

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BANGKOK’S SIRIRAJ Hospital admitted yesterday that the mysterious illness that nearly killed actress Butsaran “Numtarn The Star” Thongchio, 28, earlier this week has never been encountered in Thailand before.

Butsaran is in a stable condition, and since tests are still unable to find the cause of her illness, treatment will be mostly based on symptoms, Professor Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, told the press yesterday. 

Prasit also said that the patient’s lungs were being supported by an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life-support system, applied by Siriraj’s thoracic surgeon Dr Pranya Sakiyalak before she was moved out of Samut Sakhon Hospital. ECMO support is necessary because Butsaran is suffering from pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, he said. 

With stable vital signs and no blood in the respiratory tract, the patient underwent a CT scan this morning so doctors could assess brain damage, Prasit said, adding that no blood was found in either of the lungs, though there is swelling in her brain. He added that doctors will continue to look for a cause, monitor her symptoms closely and maintain the body’s mineral levels. 

“Numtarn is not out of the woods yet as she is still unconscious. The swelling in her brain will be assessed again in 48 hours and then in 72 hours so doctors can monitor her closely. Since brain swelling usually goes down in 72 hours, we will have to wait for that before we can assess her brain’s functions. She may be unconscious now due to the swelling or brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen when her heart stopped beating a few times,” Prasit said. “So far, we know she has an abnormal vein [in her lung] that can rupture easily and that she has a history of often having nose bleeds – though this can be due to very dry weather conditions or lack of vitamins,” he added. 

“Siriraj doctors have previously cured patients who cough up or vomit blood. But in Namtarn’s case, blood poured out of her mouth and nose, and we still can’t find the exact spot of the bleeding in her lung. Siriraj has never encountered a case like this before. In fact, these symptoms are rare worldwide,” Prasit said, adding that the ratio of people having abnormal veins in the lung was one in a million and very rarely do people have the same symptoms as Namtarn. 

He also urged people to immediately seek emergency treatment if they start coughing up blood. He also said that Butsaran does not have dengue fever, as has been speculated on social media, because her blood count is normal. 

The actress, who does not drink or smoke and has been generally healthy, suddenly began bleeding from her nose and mouth while at home in Samut Sakhon province on Tuesday. She then passed out and her heart stopped beating before she was resuscitated and rushed to the provincial hospital. She suffered another two incidents of heart failure before she was transferred at 6am on Wednesday to the better-equipped Siriraj Hospital. 

Also present at the press conference were Butsaran’s sister Pimrada and brother-in-law Kittithat Kongpopjirapat.

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